Basin Electric funds help construct food distribution center just in time for ‘record-shattering’ need

The Great Plains Food Bank's team consists of 35 staff and more than 5,500 volunteers. 

For many years, Basin Electric has worked to fulfill a basic human need — food.

Before the COVID-19 global pandemic, employees could be seen serving hot meals to area senior citizens once a month, filling backpacks with food to send home with students who may not know where their next meal will come from, tending a garden and delivering the fresh produce to pantries, or serving the local homeless at a soup kitchen. Basin Electric funds have also been used to feed the hungry on a larger scale — something that turned out to be even more critical after the pandemic’s impacts caused a staggering increase in the need for emergency access to food across North Dakota and beyond.

The Great Plains Food Bank is the largest hunger-relief organization in North Dakota and its only food bank. Each year, it recovers more than 21 million pounds of food then distributes it through its range of programs and its network of 200 food pantries across the state. The Great Plains Food Bank directs 96% of every charitable dollar it receives toward programs and services, ensuring donations get meals into the hands of those who are hungry.

Since 2016, Basin Electric has given more than $90,000 to the organization, over $40,000 of which came directly from employees through Casual for a Cause (a program where employees pay to wear jeans to work). The remainder was donated through the co-op’s Charitable Giving Program. A portion of these funds were used to construct the food bank’s new Bismarck, North Dakota, regional service center, which is a 36,000-square-foot distribution facility.

Prior to the opening of the distribution facility in 2020, truck drivers would pick up food from partnering grocery stores and immediately deliver it to food pantries because there was nowhere to store it.

Now the food is brought to the warehouse and distributed, which, according to Jared Slinde, communications manager for the Great Plains Food Bank, is much better for efficiency.

The distribution center couldn’t have opened at a better time. Slinde says that 2020 was a “record-shattering year.” He says numbers were “staggering,” and have continued to remain high.

“Numbers have been up substantially across the board, but some areas saw as much as an 80% increase in numbers,” Slinde says. “During COVID, 25% of the people we served were using our services for the first time.”

Slinde says that 145,000 people were served 17.7 million meals last year and credits partners such as Basin Electric with making this happen. “Basin Electric has been an outstanding, long-standing supporter.”

Over the years, this partnership between Basin Electric and the food bank has benefited the communities they serve with the most basic service — providing food for those who need it most.

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